SoC 50th Anniversary talk: Potential and propaganda

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting the 50th anniversary lecture of The Society of Cartographers in London.

My slides are below..

The slides I must admit are not much use of their own, but you might get some idea of the narrative of my talk. My key message I think was to highlight a paradox, although maps are more widely used that at any point in history the role of cartographers in achieving this has been at best peripheral.

Maps are more widely used because they are fundamentally more accessible, available to us on the mobile devices that are so important to our daily lives, and the maps themselves, manifestations of massive databases of geographic knowledge, are increasingly useful to us at a personal level, they can answer (in some cases literally) questions such as “Show me how to get home by Bike”.

These Maps or the now many other ways geospatial knowledge is communicated are the products of teams of software engineers, user interface designers, product managers and visionaries most of whom have a limited knowledge of cartography, just take a look at my good friend Ken’s excellent Cartonerd blog to see the results good and bad !

But there is an important role for cartographers, to help design future maps or services based on their knowledge of design and the intricacies of geographical information, have we as a industry forgotten or perhaps we never understood the axiom that in cartography “Less is more”

Of course I use many examples from Google to illustrate how much the approach to mapping has changed online in just the last decade, so I was accused of pedalling “Google Propaganda” ! OK maybe so, but there is a bigger picture here of course and other venders could provide similar examples..

There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in map making, perhaps the art and science of cartography needs to reset it’s scope now the media of communication is the screen rather than the page, but the potential surely is huge !

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Well at least one person thought so !

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